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Oscar Contest - Category Highlight - Best Director and Best Picture

February 23rd, 2008

With our annual Oscar Prediction contest underway, now is the best time to look at the nominees and try and figure out who the favorites are and which films should just feel honored to be nominated. Today we look at Best Director and Best Picture.

(Note: All previous awards listed are only for directing only.)

Best Director

Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood
Tomatometer Score: 91% positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: DGA
Movie's Previous Major Wins: None
Director's Previous Major Nominations: None
Director's Previous Major Wins: None
Notes: Paul Thomas Anderson has two previous films where he's was nominated for an Oscar, but this is the first time he's been nominated as a director. He hasn't won any major award for his directing this year, he wasn't even nominated for the Golden Globe, and that doesn't bode well for his chances here. That said, it could be There Will Be Blood and as they say, a high tide raises all boats. He could be caught in the wave and win here, but he's not the favorite.

Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men
Tomatometer Score: 94% positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: Golden Globe and DGA
Movie's Previous Major Wins: DGA
Director's Previous Major Nominations: One Oscar, one DGA, one Golden Globe, and two Independent Spirit Awards
Director's Previous Major Wins: Two Independent Spirit Awards
Notes: This is the best film on this list, although the difference between best and worst is only 4 percentage points so that is not a huge sign. Joel and Ethan Coen won the Director's Guild of America award but missed out on the Golden Globe, which is mixed signals. Good news, the DGA is a better indicator and the film that beat them at the Golden Globes wasn't even nominated for Best Picture. The brothers seem to be the favorites to win this award, but they are far from a lock and all five nominees have a legitimate shot at the award.

Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton
Tomatometer Score: 90% positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: DGA
Movie's Previous Major Wins: None
Director's Previous Major Nominations: None
Director's Previous Major Wins: None
Notes: Michael Clayton is Tony Gilroy's directorial debut and it earned him an Oscar nomination. That's impressive, but that's likely as far as it will go. No previous wins, missed out on the Golden Globe nomination, stronger competition, etc. He's not out of the running for to win this award, but he's not the favorite either.

Jason Reitman for Juno
Tomatometer Score: 93% positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: Independent Spirit Awards
Movie's Previous Major Wins: None so far
Director's Previous Major Nominations: None
Director's Previous Major Wins: None
Notes: This is only Jason Reitman's second feature-length film and it has earned him an Oscar. His previous film was Thank You For Smoking, which won him an Independent Spirit Award for best screenplay. This is an excellent sign for his future work, but as for the present, he hasn't picked up enough hardware to suggest he's going to win this weekend. He could win an Independent Spirit Award tonight, but that's far from a strong indicator for Oscars.

Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Tomatometer Score: 93% positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: Golden Globe, DGA, and Independent Spirit Award
Movie's Previous Major Wins: Golden Globe
Director's Previous Major Nominations: One Independent Spirit Award
Director's Previous Major Wins: None
Notes: This film is only Julian Schnabel's third feature-length film. (This seems to be a theme in this category as only Joel and Ethan Coen have long careers behind the camera.) This was the Golden Globe winner for Best Director, but the Coens won the DGA, and the latter is the better predictor. Also, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly wasn't nominated for Best Picture and one movie tends to win both of these categories.

Conclusion: All five films on this list ended within four percentage points of each other and the Golden Globes and DGA split on their selection. This suggests a very tight race for the Oscar, however, Joel and Ethan Coen have a significant advantage and should win their second directing Oscar this weekend.

Best Picture

Atonement
Tomatometer Score: 82% positive
Total Oscar Nominations: Seven
Golden Globe Nominations: Seven
Golden Globe Wins: Two
Guild Nominations: None
Guild Wins: None
Notes: Things start off with a, 'Really?' nomination. It's not that Atonement is bad, but its Tomatometer score is significantly below the other films on this year's list. It did win the Golden Globe for Best Drama, which is normally a strong indicator, but I would still have to consider the film a long shot here.

Juno
Tomatometer Score: 93% positive
Total Oscar Nominations: Four
Golden Globe Nominations: Three
Golden Globe Wins: None
Guild Nominations: Three
Guild Wins: One
Notes: Juno is a comedy, which pretty much precludes it from winning many major awards. There's this fallacy that movies have to be serious, or even depressing to be award-worthy and while this is not true, it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy with many, many worthy comedies skipped over on award night. The film has earned some of the best reviews of the year, and it is the only film here to cross $100 million at the box office, which nine of the past ten Best Picture winners have done. Despite that, Juno has little chance to earn the Best Picture Oscar.

Michael Clayton
Tomatometer Score: 90% positive
Total Oscar Nominations: Seven
Golden Globe Nominations: Four
Golden Globe Wins: None
Guild Nominations: Six
Guild Wins: None
Notes: Michael Clayton has earned a lot of nominations this year, but has been shut out when it comes to the wins. I expect it will perform better at the Oscars and could win one, maybe even two awards. This won't be one of them.

No Country for Old Men
Tomatometer Score: 94% positive
Total Oscar Nominations: Seven
Golden Globe Nominations: Four
Golden Globe Wins: Two
Guild Nominations: Six
Guild Wins: Five
Notes: No Country for Old Men is one of two Awards Season heavyweights with There Will Be Blood being the other. Both films have been rolling in the nominations, but this film has been winning a lot more awards. It has a slight advantage for Best Director and these two awards tend to go hand-in-hand. Add in nearly complete domination for the guild awards, and this movie has to be a favorite to win the big award on Sunday.

There Will Be Blood
Tomatometer Score: 91% positive
Total Oscar Nominations: Nine
Golden Globe Nominations: Two
Golden Globe Wins: One
Guild Nominations: Four
Guild Wins: One
Notes: There Will Be Blood has earned more Oscar nominations than any other film this year, but it has not had a very strong record when it comes to closing the deal and I don't think it will be the big winner on Sunday. It should win some awards, but I don't think it will win the most, nor to I think it will win the biggest award of the night.

Conclusion: This is a two horse race between No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. While either film could win and it wouldn't be a surprise, No Country for Old Men is the favorite to take the top prize.

Prize Highlights With each category highlight, we will also take a look at the prizes we will be giving away for the Oscar Prediction contest, as well as some of the prizes we will have when our regular Box Office Prediction contests start back up after the Oscars.

This week we look at The Grand Prize. Whoever has the best record predicting the Oscars for tomorrow will win a copy of all five best picture nominations on DVD, all of which are still in theaters. (Although No Country for Old Men is coming out on DVD and Blu-ray in a couple weeks.

Additionally, the first runner-up will win their choice of two Best Picture Nominees on DVD.


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Filed under: Juno, No Country for Old Men, Atonement, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood, Le Scaphandre et le Papillon